I rise tonight to speak about advances in mobile technologies and the benefits that they are bringing to our society. The use of mobile technologies is growing at a rapid rate. Mobile broadband traffic in Australia is expected to grow by an extraordinary 14-fold between 2011 and 2016. The development and widespread adoption of mobile technologies will result in a change to our society as fundamental—or perhaps more so—as that caused by the development of television or radio.
A few weeks ago I attended here in parliament the launch of the report commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association entitled Mobile Nation: the economic and social impacts of mobile technology. The Mobile Nation report provides an important snapshot of the use of mobile technology in Australia. Anything that we can do on a PC we now have the capacity to do on a mobile phone or tablet device. The report illustrates that the use of mobile technologies is changing the way that we work, socialise, conduct business and deal with government. They are changing our work-life balance, our communities and, for many, their relationships.
The report outlines the efficiency gains and the productivity growth due to emerging technologies. We are entering an exciting new era. In the coming years, our mobile devices will be able to perform tasks that we cannot imagine. While capable of downloading data from 3G and 4G mobile networks, mobile devices still do not download the majority of the data from fixed networks—that is, networks in the home, office or cafe. The report states that mobile devices can be used with both mobile and fixed networks. They are a complementary means of accessing data. The growth of mobile devices is likely to be a significant driver of NBN demand.
While we are talking about the NBN, I would like to say how pleased I was to attend with the member for Franklin, Julie Collins, the Future Tasmania event held at the Kingston Beach Digital Hub just a couple of weeks ago. This was launched by Minister Conroy. The Future Tasmania event featured a high definition hook-up from six locations around Tasmania.
The event demonstrated that the NBN has the power to allow seamless teleconferencing between locations as distant as Kingston Beach, St Helens, Smithton, George Town, Triabunna and Sorell. It demonstrated that teleconferencing for business, social or tele-health purposes is not only feasible but easily and seamlessly achievable.
We were also able to see firsthand the benefits of the NBN for education. The Kingston Beach Digital Hub hosted a demonstration of cartooning, using tablet technologies and the NBN from Illawarra Primary School students. In just a short lesson with a professional illustrator, Bradfield Dumpleton, the students were able to construct short animated videos on iPads that were uploaded instantly to YouTube to show their classmates, friends and families. I would like to thank the principal, Nick Donnelly, for letting me spend time talking to the students about their experiences with the technology. They told me they had so much fun making these cartoons. I said, ‘It’s amazing how much you can learn when you’ve got a good teacher’, and they said, ‘We didn’t actually realise we were learning.’ I think that says a lot about the interaction technology has and the way young people adapt to it and use it while learning as well.
I am pleased to say that the Tasmanians who have spoken to me regarding the NBN have only ever asked me, ‘When can I get it?’ Tasmanians want the NBN—and they will get it first, with Tasmania on track to be the first state to complete the NBN rollout by the end of 2015. The NBN will complement emerging mobile technologies, delivering a faster backbone for the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure and allowing us to connect to each other and the world quicker and more reliably. These technologies will revolutionise the way business is conducted, from the consumer to product design and generation. Mobile technology is moving from a device for individuals to a platform underpinning all business ICT. The structure of the industry is being transformed from a simple supply chain to an emerging ecosystem of mobile technologies that are transforming the economy.
The Mobile Nation report discusses the potential benefit of mobile technologies to business productivity. The report states:
Mobile devices can increase productivity by: increasing the effectiveness of employees or managers, or by saving them time; or by increasing the effectiveness or reducing the need for computers, vehicles, office space or other capital.
The labour productivity benefits stem from a number of sources. Workers can now communicate with others in the office while they are travelling, whether via talk, text, or email. This allows for business to continue while in a cab, at the airport or using hands-free while driving. Such unutilised or underutilised down time, which was formerly unable to be spent effectively due to not being able to access a desktop computer, is no longer unproductive. Numerous apps on smartphones and tablets, not available on desktop environments, allow users to utilise their time better. Inbuilt voice recorders, calendar applications, the ability to research on the go, and various apps designed specifically for an industry or a task can streamline repetitive tasks and increase overall efficiency. All these features can allow people to better utilise their time. Use of mobile technologies can allow decision making to be conducted more efficiently.
I would like to quote the report again, where it says:
As managers can be contacted, review information, and communicate with the office, without being physically present, they are able to increase the speed of information transfer and make timely decisions which can enable other follow-on tasks to be accelerated, improving the efficiency of business.
As I mentioned earlier, there are also capital productivity benefits from improvements in the efficiency of capital. These include efficiencies in ICT equipment, premises, software and choice of business location. By supplying employees with laptops or allowing employees to use their own laptops to connect to the workplace’s wireless network, fixed infrastructure costs can be reduced.
Mobile devices are also able to help improve efficiencies through the use of so-called machine-to-machine technology. These ‘smart technologies’ allow data to be transmitted to tablets or smartphones from sensors to provide accurate, real-time readings. This will provide particular benefit in the electricity, irrigation, agriculture, health, transport, and broadband and communications sectors. In 2009 Access Economics found that adoption of intelligent technologies would result in a significant increase in the net present value of GDP. This increase would be between $35 billion and $80 billion over the first 10 years, depending on the amount of spare capacity in the economy.
Mobile technology can improve capital productivity by facilitating telework. Telework involves working regularly from a place other than the office—in most cases from a home office, using high-speed telecommunications. It is a core feature of the emerging workplace of the future as we transition to the digital economy. Telework has the potential to improve productivity, reduce costs and enable employers to better access and retain skilled staff. By using smartphones, laptops and mobile broadband while working at home, teleworking can reduce business costs in terms of reduced rent, less desk space and lower electricity costs. Combined with the rollout of the National Broadband Network, it can also help people living in regional Australia to access a wider range of job opportunities, improve work-life balance and reduce the time, stress and cost of commuting and related traffic congestion and help to reduce our carbon footprint.
The increase in sales of smartphones via apps and online shopping, known as e-tailing or m-commerce, can lead to cost savings for bricks-and-mortar stores through reductions in occupancy cost, as a smaller floor space will result in a lower rent. Operations can be conducted out of back offices or even from people’s garages. Of course, the new mobile technologies provide challenges as well opportunities. As chair of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety I know full well some of the challenges that face young people in particular, but also senior Australians, concerning safety on mobile devices. As mobile technologies emerge and develop, applications that we cannot currently conceive will become a fundamental part of our daily lives.
Combined with the power of the National Broadband Network, mobile technologies offer an extraordinary opportunity to revolutionise the way we conduct business, the way we socialise and how we interact with our peers. The future will be mobile, and it will be a bright one.